In recent years the Bulls selectors have often confounded popular wisdom with their selections, but one of their more perplexing moments came in January when they chose their two hookers for the Super 12.

Their first choice was Danie Coetzee. Fine, no problem there - he started virtually every game in their victorious Currie Cup season. But then they chucked out his understudy, Gary Botha, a 21-year-old with infinite promise and picked 33-year-old Bolander Dale Santon.

Botha, a Blue Bull from the day he was born, has an incredible pedigree. He belongs to that elite group of schoolboy heroes who played SA Schools in both their standard nine and matric years; he was the hooker in the Under-21 team that won the junior World Cup last year and also played for the SA Under-21 team the previous year, and the SA Under-19 side the year before that; when he was in matric he took time off to play Rugby League tests for the SA Rhinos in Britain.

Why then, for heaven's sake, did the Bulls prefer a battling old hooker from the Boland? With respect to Santon, a fiery old war-horse if ever there was one, surely his time has come and gone and the youngster should have been given the opportunity?

Only Rudy Joubert, who funnily enough used to coach Santon at Boland, can answer that one.

The upshot of it all, though, is that Botha was subsequently drafted to the Sharks to back up Lukas van Biljon until John Smit recovered from his shoulder injury.

Incidentally, it is worth noting that Smit was another junior Blue Bull who was chased away from Pretoria and welcomed in Durban.

Van Biljon played the first match of the competition and then got injured and suddenly Botha was in the hooker hot seat. He has been there ever since and has improved with each game.

"It is quite odd how things work out," he admits. "When I came to Durban to play in that Currie Cup semifinal for the Bulls I could never have guessed I would be back a few months later as a Super 12 Shark.

"Yes, I was initially very disappointed to be left out by the Bulls, but what was a negative for me has turned into a huge positive. I am now greatly enriched by having played five Super 12 games in a row. And I have grown a lot as a person for having swopped a very conservative background in Pretoria for Durban's lifestyle."

Botha could quite possibly be the most driven young rugby player in the country. He is utterly focused and totally ambitious.

When asked about his goals in rugby he says: "I do not just want to be a Springbok, I want to play in three World Cups."

We already have evidence of what this youngster can achieve when he puts his mind to it. He was a flank until a year ago.

He decided he was too short for an international loose forward and that his aggressive on-field personality better suited hooker. Six months after his positional change, he played hooker in the Under-21 World Cup.

Botha is grateful that his time in Durban has brought him under the influence of former Springbok hooker John Allan.

"He has done a lot for our scrumming. It's true we were battling a bit and he has changed that. He has taught us that 'scrum time is our (the front row's) time'. In other words we are there to scrum!"

This is Botha's first trip to New Zealand. He cannot wait to play his first match, which will be on Saturday against the Chiefs.

"It is time we started making our own luck. We must stop making excuses. Against the Chiefs we must make sure the ball bounces our way."

If all 15 Sharks have this attitude, how can they lose?